Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Brendan Ross takes a look at some standout performances and prospect news from NHL prospect tournaments.
The Bruins participated in the Florida Panthers prospect tournament last week and failed to grab a win going 0-1-2 in the four team event.
Anthony Cammara, Zach Trotman (D), Alexander Khokhlachev each scored once and invitee Maxime Villemaire scored twice as Boston battled to a 5-5 tie with the Lightning in game one. Seth Griffith, defenseman Tommy Cross and Steven Spinelli picked up two assists each. Malcolm Subban made 28 saves on 33 shots.
In their second game, Boston lined up with the Panthers’ rookies and Trotman, Khokhlachev, Camara found the back of the net again while Jared Knight picked up a goal as well putting Boston up 4-0. Unfortunately, the Bruins collapsed and blew the lead eventually losing 5-4.
The final game versus the Nashville Predators concluded in a 2-2 tie on goals from Seth Griffith and Alexander Fallstrom with Subban manning the crease in a strong performance.
The Sabres were in Traverse City at the annual prospect tournament defending their title but eventually fell short to the Red Wings.
Nicholas Baptiste, selected 69th overall in 2013, had an outstanding showing for the Sabres picking up four goals and seven points to lead the team in scoring in four games. Baptiste not only contributed offensively but he was praised for his strong defensive awareness away from the offensive zone and high energy game. I had Baptiste ranked higher than most (75th) for the 2013 NHL Draft and it appears that the Sabres thought similarly of the big Sudbury Wolves winger.
Staying with the 2013 draft class, Eric Locke, Sabres 7th round selection, finished second in team scoring with a pair of goals and six points leaving a good impression with the blue and gold. Defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen (8th overall) and Nikita Zadorov (16th overall) finished with one and three points, respectively. All indications point to Ristolainen being NHL-ready. Zadorov appeared to struggle during early games but found his game as the tournament progressed showcasing his impressive physicality and booming slapshot.
The most impressive Sabres’ prospect is the newly acquired Johan Larsson. The skilled Swede showed a ton of confidence with the puck and really controlled the play for the Sabres. Larsson’s final tournament statline was one goal, three assists and a minus-1 rating.
Zemgus Girgensons, 14th overall in 2012, didn’t find the gamesheet but he certainly left an impression with his defensive game and that’s what is going to earn him a spot on the Sabres roster. Girgensons doesn’t appear to be too far from NHL-ready.
Noteworthy: Joel Armia was held pointless in four games.
Elias Lindholm is coming off a bruised shoulder injury and hasn’t played in a game since March so the Canes’ were entering camp with modest expectations for their 2013 5th overall selection. Lindholm surprised the Hurricanes brass with his strong play…
“I was surprised he played as well as he did,” Rutherford said when we chatted after the game. “I was looking for a guy trying to get through the game and get his timing. The second and third period, his skill level really showed and his vision. He was really good with the puck. He moved the puck to the open guys all the time.”
With loss time to injury, Lindholm is a wildcard to make the team this fall but early indications point to him lining up with Jeff Skinner if he does crack the lineup, something the Canes feel he’s capable of doing. In the event that Lindholm doesn’t make the Hurricanes’ roster out of camp, Carolina would prefer to keep him in the AHL as they don’t expect him to be there all year. There is a possibility he returns to Sweden but I don’t feel that is Plan A. Lindholm finished the Traverse City tournament with zero points in two games.
Follow my prospect work on Twitter (@RossyYoungblood)? If you do, you know that I was SHOCKED not to see Sergey Tolchinsky (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL) selected in the 2013 NHL Draft. The small skilled offensive forward lacks strength and size but his skillset warranted a selection. Well, Carolina signed him to a contract after Tolchinsky impressed as an invitee at their development camp in the summer. Even more impressive is the fact that Sergey Tolchinsky led all prospects at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament in scoring with five goals and eight points in four games. He won’t be NHL ready (due to his lack of strength) for a few years but what a turn of events for Tolchinsky!
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p>Sergey Tolchinsky has advanced to the Main Training camp of the Carolina Hurricanes. 2 months ago he went undrafted in NHL Entry Draft.</p>— Soo Greyhounds (@OHLHoundPower) <a href=”https://twitter.com/OHLHoundPower/statuses/377222834176937984″>September 10, 2013</a></blockquote>
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As I previously mentioned in my ramblings, Ryan Murphy, 2011 12th overall selection, is presented with a glorious opportunity with news that Hurricanes’ puck moving defenseman Joni Pitkanen will be sideline with injury. It also bodes well for Ryan Murphy’s immediate future that he performed exceptionally well at the Traverse City tourney picking up six assists in four games.
It may be a long shot but Phillip Danault may force his way on the Hawks’ roster with a strong training camp showing after turning heads with his astute defensive play. He plays a simple game that projects well to the NHL and it’s these type of players (Couturier, Saad, Laughton, etc) who offer more than one-dimension that usually surprise during fall camps. Look for Danault to start in Rockford but don’t be surprised to see him in a Hawks uniform this season.
It seems like defenseman Dylan Olsen has been a prospect for ages but the former 28th selection in 2009 may be on the verge of making the NHL full-time. By no means is he a lock and likely a true wildcard but Dylan Olsen is a smooth skating defenseman with good defensive instincts. If injuries strike in Chi-Town then Olsen may finally get his chance to redeem his career.
Mark McNeil, 2011 1st round selection, had a solid yet unspectacular showing for the Blackhawks. McNeil is a responsible forward that won’t be too flashy but he can really shot the puck.
Drew LeBlanc, Chicago’s free agent college signee, looks to be a real skilled forward who possesses good vision and a strong hockey IQ.
Joakim Nordstrom, 2010 3rd round pick, has finally arrived in North America and he was one of the more noticeable players in London. He exemplifies a strong commitment to the defensive game but also shows good puck possession skills, vision and passing ability.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
College signee Jeremy Langlois was the Blue Jackets’ leading scorer at the Traverse City Prospects Tourney finishing with two goals and five points in four games.
Boone Jenner picked up four assists as he looks to force the Jackets’ hand into a tough decision when training camp opens up. Jenner’s contributions didn’t stop with his offensive production as the big forward is a tough defensive forward to play against. Nathan Horton’s injury will help Jenner’s chances.
Top defenseman Ryan Murray, 2nd overall in 2012, rounded out the top three scorers with two goals, three points and looks ready to show what he’s made of.
The Stars have successfully built up a strong prospect group after patiently following through with a brick-by-brick approach adding talented players each year and it’s beginning to pay off. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the young core of prospects in Dallas and it’s certainly warranted given the potential of some of these talents. Topping the list is Valeri Nichushkin, selected 10th overall this past June, who is tearing up the prospect camps and now eyeing a top-six spot in Dallas.
Participating in the famous Traverse City Prospects Tournament, Dallas was one of eight teams competing that included Detroit, Minnesota, St. Louis, Columbus, Buffalo, Carolina and New York Rangers. Nichushkin was oozing confidence at the tournament and quickly left a strong impression scoring a highlight reel goal in the opener and appeared to be very comfortable with his new club. Nichushkin is one rookie who will be given a long leash to succeed in his first year simply because of the openings In Dallas.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p>One observer watching Stars first-rounder Nichushkin in Traverse City: “He’s a man-child.” Lindy Ruff says his skating compares to Malkin.</p>— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) <a href=”https://twitter.com/CraigCustance/statuses/376807722982703104″>September 8, 2013</a></blockquote>
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From the guys at DefendingBigD, What should expectations be for Valeri Nichushkin after impressive Traverse City Tournament?
“We’re going to give him every opportunity to be on our team,” Stars assistant general manager Les Jackson told NHL.com. “We’ll just monitor it and see how it goes. It’s a transition for a lot of young kids because it’s such a huge step; he certainly has the skills and there’s a lot of other parts to the game and culture he’ll need to adapt to. So we’ll take it one day at a time and see how he does.”
#43 Valeri Nichushkin Goal (9/8/2013)
Another one from Nichushkin (9/9/2013)
The Stars’ 2010 1st round selection, Jack Campbell, had a strong showing during the prospect camp and appears to be a more poised goaltender. Did you know, there hasn’t been a goaltender selected higher than Jack Campbell (11th) since his draft year?
Alex Chiasson is a forward ready to jump to the NHL and he finished the week on a strong note tallying two goals in a 7-1 final.
Brett Ritchie, Jamie Oleksiak (D) and Radek Faksa each finished with three points in the four game tournament but it was Curtis McKenzie was the team’s leading scorer with three goals and four points.
DETROIT RED WINGS
The Traverse City hosts, Detroit Red Wings, finally got their first win at the 15th annual prospect tournament capping off a good week with a 4-2 win over defending champs, Buffalo Sabres. Anthony Mantha (20th overall, 2013) scored two goals and added an assist to left the winged wheel to victory. Mantha (3G 5P) shared the team scoring lead with Teemu Pulkkinen (1G 5P) and Xavier Ouellet (1G 5P). With a defense core that is changing in Detroit, be sure to keep tabs on Ouellet, as well as Ryan Sproul (3A, team high plus-8), as potential up-and-coming defensive studs.
Hosts of the prospect tournament in Coral Springs, FL featuring prospects from the Lightning, Predators and Bruins, the Panthers were eventual second place finishers losing to the Lightning in the finale.
In a high energy opening game versus the Predators, Logan Shaw, John McFarland, Josh McFadden and Chris Clapperton scored in the Panthers 8-4 loss. Assists: George Hughes, Jonathan Racine, Bjugstad, Jared Gomes, Trivino and Alexander Petrovic. Goaltenders: Rob Madore stopped 10 of the 12 shots he saw in the first half of the game and Mack Shields turned aside eight of his 14 shots.
In the post-game shootout, Francis Beauvillier, Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad, Jared Gomes and Alexander Delnov were the Panther shooters with both Trocheck and Delnov scoring to win the shootout 2-1.
Game two was the Nick Bjugstad show as he rallied his team from a 4-0 deficit by scoring a hat-trick. Jonathan Racine (D) and Quinten Howden (also picked up two assists) were the other two scorers while Mackenzie Weegar (2A), Alex Petrovic, Jared Gomes, Vincent Trocheck and Trevor Lewis all picked up helpers. Delnov, Trocheck and Petrovic were successful shootout scorers in game two.
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The finale featured the battle of Florida with the Panthers and Lightning meeting up. Bjugstad was the lone goal scorer for Florida on a nice pass by Logan Shaw as the Cats fell to the Bolts 2-1. The game featured several fights with Florida’s Tony Turgeon, Josh McFadden, Wade Megan, and Josh Brown all tossing their mitts in the affair. Florida’s Nick Bjugstad finished with four goals, tying Nikita Kucherov for the tournament lead.
Bruins/Panthers Shootout Video:
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The Wild failed to record a win and scored a team low six goals at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. Raphael Bussieres (2G), invitee Carter Sandlak (2G), Tyler Graovac (1G 1A), Miles Koules (1G 1A) and invitee Ben Walker (2A) topped the team scoring leaders with two points each.
Some noteworthy statlines: Erik Haula (minus-6), Mathew Dumba (1A, minus-3)
The Nashville Predators came into the Florida Prospects Tournament as the lone Western Conference participant and finished with a 1-1-1 record on the week.
In game one versus Florida, the Panthers used a six goal third period to lift themselves to a 8-4 win on goals from Miikko Salomaki, Josh Shalla, Filip Forsberg, Michael Moffat, Patrick Cehlin, Vinny Saponari, Tommy Veilleux and Zach Budish. It was also the first game that 4th overall selection Seth Jones suited up in. Assists: Salomaki (2), Burdish. Goaltending: Magnus Hellberg stopped nine of 11 shots while Marek Mazanec allowed two goals on 15 shots in the second half.
Up against a talented Lightning roster in game two, the Preds fell short losing 7-4. Goal scoring was led from the blue line with Seth Jones scoring one and Anthony Bitetto adding two while Filip Forsberg netted his second of the tournament.
The Predators battled to a 2-2 draw with the Bruins in game three with Michael Moffat and Felix Girard burying goals. Joonas Rask was the Preds’ lone goal scorer in the post-game shootout, which also ended in a 1-1 tie.
NEW YORK RANGERS
Acquired in June 2012, Oscar Lindberg recently led the New York Rangers’ prospects in scoring with five goals and seven points in four Traverse City Tournament games. Lindberg is coming off a strong SHL season with Skelleftea where he finished top three in team scoring with 17 goals and 42 points (with 54 PIM) in 55 games. Lindberg’s two-way game brings a lot of intangibles as he offers strong defensive play, good faceoff skills and the ability to contribute modest offensively so he’s certainly a player to watch heading into main training camp.
Another new face to the Rangers’ organization is Danny Kristo, who comes via trade from the Montreal Canadiens. Kristo tallied four goals for seven points to tie Lindberg in team scoring in Traverse City. With the Hagelin and Callahan injuries in the Rangers’ top-nine, Kristo has an outside shot at the blue shirts’ making opening day roster.
Ottawa’s 2013 1st round selection, Curtis Lazar, brought his game to the nation’s capital and played it perfectly, showing flashes of his relentless puck pursuit and strong commitment to defence, blocking shots and finishing checks.
Ottawa’s Luke Richardson praised Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s outstanding play during the London Prospects Tournament stating, “He looks like the best player I’ve seen this weekend”. Pageau is in line for a job with the Ottawa Senators and he’s having a strong fall showing, so far.
Cody Ceci was a standout performer at the Senators camp and as expected, it was mostly when the 2012 1st rounder (15th) was in possession of the puck. He is a player who benefited largely from joining a defensively-tight Owen Sound Attack team midway through the 2012-13 OHL Season as his defensive game has certainly improved, much to the thanks of playing with respected OHL veteran Nathan Chiarlitti. Unfortunately, with Ottawa’s blue line full, Ceci will likely have to wait a season to take a run at the Sens main roster.
The Penguins participated in the Toronto Maple Leafs Prospect Tournament held in London, ON at Budweiser Gardens. Former Knights’ captain Scott Harrington (D) had a strong showing playing his usual smart defensive low-maintenance game. Due to his high defensive awareness, Harrington will crack the Penguins roster sooner than later. Olli Maatta, also a member of the London Knights, was comfortable playing on a familiar rink and showed that he isn’t too far from making the NHL roster either. Maatta brings more offensive value to the Penguins and should be a solid top-four two-way defenseman at the NHL level.
The Pens shocked many draft gurus when they selected Derrick Pouliot 8th overall (with the pick acquired in the Jordan Staal trade) and it appears the organization will need to be patient with this potential offensive defenseman. He certainly brings some skill from the blueline but he will need to really improve his defensive game and gaffes to take the next step.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
Competing in the Traverse City Prospect tournament, St. Louis finished the week with a 2-2 record. The Blues’ leading scorer was none other than Ty Rattie, whose three goals and four points, shared the lead with Sebastian Wannstrom’s three goals and four points. Dmitrij Jaskin (1G 3P), William Carrier (2G 1A), Ryan Tesink (3G), Joel Edmundson (3A) and Curtis Valk (3A) all tallied a trio of points in the four game tournament.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
The strong crop of Lightning prospects captured the Florida Prospects Tournament title after a 2-1 win over the Panthers in the finale. Nikita Kucherov, who should be owned in keeper leagues with prospect spots, led the tournament in goals (4, tied with FLA Nick Bjugstad) and points (7).
Playing to a 5-5 tie with the Bruins in game one, Adam Erne, Nikita Kucherov, Danick Girard, Dan Milan and Tanner Richard were the goal scorers with Namestnikov, Erne and Kucherov picking up two assists each. Kristers Gudlevskis was good between the pipes stopping 28 of 33 shots.
Five unanswered goals in the second period lifted the Lightning to a 7-4 win over the Predators in game two. Goal scorers included Nikita Nesterov, Tanner Richard, Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Dylan Olsen, Danick Gauthier and JT Brown (empty net). Drouin did not suit up in game two to give him some rest.
In the Lightning’s finale, Nikita Kucherov’s two goals were enough to get a 2-1 win over the Panthers. Kucherov’s first goal came from a nice cross-ice pass from 2011 1st round selection Slater Koekkoek to Jake Dotchin who hit the streaking Russian. On his second goal, Kucherov scored on a beauty give-and-go with 3rd overall selection Jonathan Drouin.
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Well, duh! Is anyone surprised?
“Drouin and Kucherov were kind of magical out there a few times,” Bolts head coach Rob Zettler — normally the coach with AHL Syracuse, “Some really nice chances and an unbelievable goal.”
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Leafs Petter Granberg was one of the more impressive blue and white prospects at their summer development camp but appeared to struggle with mobility and speed of the game during the prospect tournament. He brings a tough and physical element to the organization but he may not be as ready as some people expected.
Reports from the tournament indicated that Gregg McKegg showed well in London, where he used to play as a member of the Knights. As a former big fan of McKegg in the OHL, I am hoping he can turn the corner in his second AHL campaign after posting just eight goals and 22 points for the Marlies in 2012-13. This strong showing is a good start.
Morgan Rielly turning heads at rookie tournament…
“The six-foot, 205-pound defenceman was easily the best player on the ice for both teams using his speed and vision to make solid pro plays. Rielly, chosen fifth overall, used his lateral skating ability to quarterback the power play and produced three scoring chances of his own in the first period alone.“
And Josh Leivo, Toronto’s fastest progressing prospect, didn’t disappoint either….
If Rielly was Toronto’s best player, Leivo wasn’t far behind – at least while he was in the game. He suffered a chest contusion and missed the third period.
“It was more a precautionary thing to take him out of the game,” Spott said. “If it was a regular-season game he would have been fine. We missed him in the third. He’s big, he can skate and he has tremendous puck protection.
“He’s a player that when you need to create offence he can be that guy. In the third when we wanted to maintain pressure, we missed his presence on the ice.”
Spott is spot on (pun intended) with his Josh Leivo assessment as the former Sudbury Wolves star will be a fantastic third line player (with second line upside) in the NHL.
Could Toronto see up to five players make their Leafs’ debut this season?
You can see it at this year’s rookie tournament, where Rielly looks like he is ready to make the jump from junior to the NHL and as many as five others (Petter Granberg, David Broll, Josh Leivo, Greg McKegg and Andrew MacWilliam) could see time with the Leafs at some point this season.
I think you’d be far-fetched to see Broll or McKegg in a Leafs’ uniform this season but Granberg, Leivo and MacWilliam are possibilities.
Thanks for reading,